White Supremacy and Climate Action

CAN Statement – August 2020

Climate Action Now is called to rededicate ourselves in this moment to partner with those organizations and individuals who are dedicated to building the powerful, unified and vibrant mass movement required to bring about the systemic change we so desperately need. White supremacy is found in all of our institutions and includes internalized superiority and inferiority embedded deep within our psyches  A key condition for creating the world we yearn for is to understand and unravel systemic white supremacy while making every effort to repair the harm that has been done. Only then can we build a movement grounded in solidarity, collaboration, love and trust that is our best hope for a just and livable world. 

Only with such systemic change will it be possible to truly address the climate emergency in an equitable way, transform the economy so it prioritizes the common good and works equitably for everyone, reverse the advance of authoritarianism, strengthen democracy, and dismantle white supremacy.

From the beginning
This country was founded on the genocide of Indigenous peoples and the enslavement of Africans. From the beginning, those with power have used racism as a vicious tool to sow division among the rest of us in order to maintain their power. The weapon of white supremacy has been used to interfere with efforts for positive change throughout our history.

 Our public health disaster, the escalating climate chaos, the violence of white supremacy, patriarchy, economic inequality, and increasing moves toward authoritarian rule are inextricably rooted in systems of domination, division and greed that have given tremendous wealth and power to the top 1%, while also benefiting many others in society’s dominant groups.

We invite everyone in the Climate Action Now community to engage in a process of learning, communicating with the broader community, and taking action with regards to these issues.

Platforms and programs
We support programs for meeting the interrelated crises that we face and achieving justice for all those currently targeted, marginalized and oppressed, including:

Violence against Black people – lethal, physical, and psychological – plays a special role in keeping the systems of domination in place.  We must eliminate this violence because Black people must be free of it, and because eliminating it will open up possibilities for justice for all groups.  Racism against any group of people must be ended.

Eliminating white supremacy
The elimination of white supremacy requires both a redistribution of power and wealth to Black and brown people through legislation, policy and practice, and ongoing healing of people’s minds from the corrupting influence of the ideology of white superiority and black and brown inferiority.  This work is essential among white people so they can end acceptance of, and complicity with, racial injustice, and genuinely support the creation of a just society free of white dominance.

Ending oppression of all peoples
Male domination and patriarchy play a significant role in maintaining and exacerbating the problems we face with the climate, racial injustice, distribution of wealth, militarization, and erosion of democracy.  Male domination, sexism and the oppression of women, ableism, transphobia, and the oppression of LGBQT people must be ended.  People of all sexual and gender identities must be fully respected, protected, and central in our thinking and work.  The rights and inherent value of people with all kinds of bodyminds must be acknowledged. We back the elimination of anti-Semitism in the U.S. and throughout the world, and full human rights for Palestinians, indigenous peoples, and all others targeted by white supremacy.

Economic/political system
No economic/political system that continues to enable 1% of the population to acquire and keep more of the wealth of the nation than the bottom 90%, can possibly meet the needs of its people. No such system can possibly deal adequately with either a pandemic or the climate catastrophe.  Yet this is the situation in the United States today, where the top 10% have roughly 70% of the wealth and the bottom 80% have less than 20%.  There is plenty of money to meet people’s needs and transform quickly to a net zero emissions economy, if we distribute wealth more equitably and use much more of it for the common good.

Unique opportunity
The current moment offers us a unique opportunity to achieve transformative change.  A “leap” forward is required.  Slow incremental changes will not address the current crises.   While boldness and vision are needed, so are concrete plans, proposals and strategies.

Climate Action Now (CAN) – August 31, 2020

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“You can’t have climate change without sacrifice zones, and you can’t have sacrifice zones without disposable people, and you can’t have disposable people without racism.”     Hop Hopkins, Sierra Club

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From Dominique Thomas of 350.org

“What does racial justice have to do with climate justice?

§  Black communities are disproportionally affected by the climate crisis.

§  Black people are pushed into neighborhoods near pipelines and highways and environmental hazards that cause health conditions which exacerbate the impact of the coronavirus.

§  When Black communities are hit by climate disasters, they receive fewer resources and a slower response.  Think Hurricane Katrina.

§  Climate change is not a race-blind issue.”

“What can climate activists do to show up for Black lives?

§  Show up for Black-led actions.

§  Support Black-led policy platforms like the Movement for Black Lives.

§  Listen to Black organizers when they talk about the brutalities Black people face in the streets and from the climate crisis.

§  Provide resources — donate to bail funds and Black organizations

§  Ask your white and non-Black people of color friends what are they doing in their daily lives to dismantle white supremacy?

§  Talk to them about the links between racism and the climate crisis.

§  Support a Green New Deal, that will invest in Black [and other] workers and communities.”

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From: Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr.
President and founder the Hip Hop Caucus and a prominent climate activist.

“Climate change and police brutality are directly linked together, because the communities who are most impacted and vulnerable to police brutality are also the same communities that are most vulnerable to climate change. We saw this directly in the case of Eric Garner. When Eric Garner was killed in 2014, he stated the same words that we now have heard from George Floyd: “I can’t breathe.” But one of the things that’s important to know about Eric Garner is that he had asthma, as did most people in the Garner family, including his daughter Erica, who would die after suffering an asthma-induced heart attack and a broken heart fighting for justice for her father. Even though Eric Garner was killed by an illegal choke hold by the New York City Police Department, it’s important to note that the borough he lived in (which has the highest tree density in N.Y.C.) also received an F for ozone pollution, per the American Lung Association’s 2018 report. The way that we can actually fight pollution and police brutality is by fighting them together. I would also add poverty to this deadly mix, because the issues of police brutality, pollution, and poverty are all linked together.

Sixty-eight per cent of black people live within thirty miles of a coal-fired power plant. We know that the destruction of Hurricane Maria, Harvey, Katrina, and Superstorm Sandy all had a direct impact not only on marginalized and vulnerable communities but on communities of color, which reinforces that racial justice and climate justice are linked. But, to be clear, it’s all about justice. Which is why the cries of the people of “No Justice, No Peace” are very real.

So the minute that we become serious about fighting police brutality as an environmental movement will be the minute that we begin to have faster gains in fighting climate change and vice versa. Those who are solely focused on police brutality, the minute they also understand the impact of the climate crisis and lack of clean air and lack of clean water and those oil companies, gas companies, and coal companies, and how they are directly linked to the poisoning of our communities that we are trying to protect, then they will see that they must take on not only police brutality but also the issue of climate change.”

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From “Towards Collective Liberation”, by Chris Crass, Catalyst Project 

“Collective liberation challenges divide-and-control tactics by emphasizing how our fate is bound up with each other. With collective liberation as our goal, we seek to create a society where everyone has access to human rights, food, dignified work, housing, education, and health care. It means that “no one is free when others are oppressed,” and it means recognizing that oppression strips all of us of our humanity, keeping us disconnected and alienated from each other and the planet. Within a collective liberation vision, white people work to end racism not for, or on behalf of, the interests of people of color, but because our lives and humanity depend on the eradication of racism as well. We do this work in service of a liberated world where the 99 percent don’t fight each other for crumbs, where people, including white people, no longer ally ourselves with ruling-class elites who don’t have our interests in mind.”